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I have pushed the pause button on Thinking Out Loud for the next three weeks.  In the meantime, feel free to browse the archives from previous months.  Thanks for journeying with me as I think out loud.  See you in July!

I was really saddened last week to learn that Al and Tipper Gore had separated after 40 years of marriage.  I’m not really sure why the news of their marital difficulties and estrangement hit me like it did.  You would think that in a culture of disposable relationships, starter marriages, and a running storyline of extra-marital affairs among politicians and celebrities that the Gores’ announcement of separation wouldn’t have created a blip on my radar screen.  But, for some reason, it did.

Maybe it is because they have been married for four decades and there is no initial indication of “another man” or “another woman” in the equation.  Maybe it is because they seemed so committed to one another and had successfully journeyed together through circumstances that undoubtedly tested their relationship in many ways: numerous political campaigns, life in the U.S. Senate, the Vice Presidency, and narrowly losing a Presidential election.  Maybe it is because they endured the trauma of nearly losing a child when their six-year-old son Albert III was struck by a car in 1989.  Maybe it is because of “The Kiss” at the Democratic National Convention in 2000. 

This isn’t about politics.  It’s about a fractured family: a family with four adult children and precious grandchildren.  It’s about an American family.  Remember those?  Not red state and blue state families; just American families.  

Maybe it is because Kim and I have worked through struggles of our own over the course of 22 years of life, marriage, and ministry together.  There was a time when we were told that we just needed to “start thinking about what was next” by people who were prematurely ready to throw in the towel for us and apparently believed that we were beyond help and beyond hope.  I pray that the Gores are getting wiser counsel than that.

Al and Tipper, I never voted for you, but I am definitely praying for you and pulling for you.  I pray that your separation will give you time and space to remember and rekindle the things that caused you to fall in love over 40 years ago.  I pray that your hearts will be healed and drawn back to one another so that you can grow old together and enjoy your grandchildren together.  If anyone tells you that it’s too late for that, they are wrong. 

My mind was drawn this week to the hymn And Can It Be? which was composed by Charles Wesley in 1738.   I’ll let Wesley’s lyrics and a couple of performances of the song speak for themselves.  This arrangement is not the traditional tune to which the hymn has been sung, but one that I first heard on GLAD’s The Acapella Project (1988).

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace!,
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach th’eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

 

In the summer of 1995, the Space Shuttle Atlantis made history when it rendezvoused with the orbiting Russian space station Mir.  The event received worldwide media coverage.  The mission, with its delicate docking procedures, proved to be a vital link in the ultimate construction and manning of the International Space Station.  

Shortly after the Atlantis-Mir mission, the Shuttle Discovery began a much less publicized and less closely watched flight.  The Discovery‘s launch came several weeks after it was originally scheduled.  Launch delays are certainly not uncommon at NASA, but it was the cause of this particular delay that was so amusingly unique.  It wasn’t a computer glitch.  It wasn’t a malfunction in the fuel delivery system.  It wasn’t the weather.  It was the result of the havoc that was wreaked by a few members of the family Picidae; it was woodpeckers!

How could woodpeckers ground a vehicle which embodied the culmination of decades of advanced engineering, computer technology, and digital precision?  How is it possible that a few birds could stall the launch schedule of the world’s foremost space agency?  In this nature versus machine, David and Goliath story, the woodpeckers had chipped numerous holes in the insulation which surrounds the Shuttle’s large external fuel tank.  The insulation prevents the super-cooled fuel inside from forming ice on the outer surface of the tank, ice which could break away during lift-off and damage the orbiter.  The holes in the insulation were substantial enough to threaten the safety of the launch.

There is more to this incident than the spectacle of a woodpecker sparring with a mammoth, man-made space bird.  It demonstrates that grand and wondrous plans can sometimes be thwarted by the smallest of opposing forces. 

How many times have you known of a good work or ministry that has been brought to a screeching halt by the quibbles and complaints of a few malcontents?  How often have individuals with abundant talent and great aspirations been dragged down into discouragement and inactivity by trivial, but persistent, contentions and complaints?

We do a disservice to Christ and His church when oil is habitually applied to squeaky wheels within a congregation.  It soothes them only for a brief time and merely reinforces their unjustified sense of influence and control.  It is most often the case that the human wheels making the most noise are not the weight-bearing or pulling wheels, but those which are simply along for the ride.  Contentiousness and its bearers should be prudently dismissed for the benefit and progress of the Body as a whole.

“For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.  Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife” (Proverbs 26:20-21).

Beware the woodpecker!

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